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Already hurting, Massachusetts casinos take a big hit from early closing time

Gambling revenue dropped by 35 percent overall in November

Floor markings at the Encore Boston Harbor casino encourage social distancing.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Tougher state public health restrictions took a significant toll on Massachusetts casinos last month, as the already struggling facilities had to close their doors nightly during what are traditionally some of their most lucrative hours.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Tuesday said gambling revenue at the state’s three casinos had dropped by nearly 35 percent compared with October. Overall, Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, Plainridge Park in Plainville, and MGM Springfield collected $45 million from gamblers in November.

The drop-off comes as the casinos, designed as 24-hour facilities, have been forced to close by 9:30 p.m. each night under Governor Charlie Baker’s rules intended to slow the spread of COVID-19. The casinos had already been operating at reduced capacity after being closed for about four months starting in March.

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While casinos have not had to shut their doors again as part of the new rollback in the state’s reopening process, the cutback in hours has resulted in a significant reduction in business. Encore’s parent company, Wynn Resorts, has said that more than half of the casino’s revenue is generated at night.

Encore took in $27.3 million in gaming revenue in November, down 34 percent from the prior month. Revenue from slot machines, which had remained relatively strong following the casino’s reopening, was $15.5 million in November, down from $23.7 million in October. In November 2019, for comparison, Encore collected $47.3 million overall.

Compounding the financial impact, Encore has temporarily shuttered its hotel amid the early closures, and said in November that it may furlough up to 1,000 workers from its 2,700-person staff during the restrictions.

MGM Springfield reported $10.5 million in gambling revenue, a 40 percent decline from October, and proceeds from table games were down more than half. In November 2019, MGM Springfield reported revenue of $20 million.

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Plainridge, which does not offer table games, said its slot machines took in $7.6 million in November. That was down about 25 percent from October. Last November, Plainridge’s slots revenue was nearly $11 million.

Casinos in Massachusetts and around the country have spent large sums of money preparing their facilities to operate during a pandemic. Visible measures include plexiglass dividers, aggressive cleaning of gambling equipment, and stringent enforcement of mask-wearing requirements. Massachusetts casinos also have state inspectors on scene monitoring compliance with health regulations.

But as the number of COVID-19 cases have risen, some jurisdictions are again looking to close casinos as a way to encourage people to stay home and avoid social gatherings. Rhode Island officials recently ordered the two facilities there to temporarily shut down to help prevent spread of the virus.




Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com.